by Brandon Fox
Overeating, overflowing with information and, frankly, with exhaustion weighing them down, attendees of the first Fire, Flour & Fork — some, at least — may have overscheduled their days and nights to suck the marrow right out of the event.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The weekend food conference was crammed with famous chefs and cookbook authors doing demos, discussing their passions and cooking widely varied dinners. Even Richmond celebrity Donnie Corker, aka Dirtwoman, buzzed through the lobby of the Library of Virginia in his wheelchair between sessions, heading down the street to the tasting tent for a free bag.
The event started at the Eclectic Electric Appliance Museum, a quirky homage to more than a hundred years of toasters, milkshake-makers, miniature stoves, fans and so many other things, including an interesting assemblage in the bathroom. Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Clare Osdene Shapiro, the daughter of museum owner Thomas Osdene, says the exhibit is a small fraction of what the museum holds.
Chef Sean Brock and Comfort chef Travis Milton dished up Appalachian cuisine, served family-style, with beans starring in such dishes as leather britches, soup beans (not to be confused with bean soup), plus catfish and the largest platter of pickles I've ever seen. "This is the close as it comes to eating at my grandmother's house," Brock says.
"I don't want to make what already exists," says Momofuku Milk Bar's Virginia-born Christina Tosi. She taught attendees to make her famous crack pie after she distributed pieces for everyone to eat while they watched. Pit master Tuffy Stone revealed most of the methods he employs to create his award-winning barbecue, but the audience was sworn to secrecy. "I've friends on the circuit that would pay big money for this," Stone says. (Come by my house if you'd like to try my now-excellent pulled pork.)
Cookbook author Alice Medrich (read the full interview at Styleweekly.com) explained that although her new cookbook, "Flavor Flours," is gluten-free, she focused on exploring alternative flours to see what they could do instead of creating a replacement for wheat flour.
The Festival of the Hungry Ghosts at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery brought out costumes and tastings created by Owen Lane of the Magpie, Mike Braune of Secco Wine Bar, Brittanny Anderson of Metzger Bar and Butchery and more, while dinners were going on at Amour Wine Bistro, Curry Craft and others.
Another day of speakers followed, with Tim Gearhardt explaining chocolate, Lamplighter Roasting Co.'s Jennifer Rawlings talking about the history of coffee, Chris Fultz of ZZQ giving away his secrets for perfect Texas brisket, and historian Leni Sorenson discussing Mary Randolph's seminal 1824 cookbook, "The Virginia House-Wife" and its influence on American cooking.
Five more simultaneous dinners happened that Saturday night, including a feast prepared by chefs Peter Chang and Gerg Haley at Amuse. Just to give you a taste of everything that went on and that I had to leave out, there were a total of 46 speaker sessions, 14 dinners, seven lunches and a rare tour of the C.F. Sauer factory — all within three days. Fire, Flour & Fork was a marathon, and next year I'll be sure to train before I get there.
Roosevelt reunion: Chefs are known to travel, and Mike Braune, who's been the force behind the small plates at Secco Wine Bar, has moved from Carytown to Church Hill to cook at the Roosevelt. The restaurant's co-owner and chef, Lee Gregory, and his two sous chefs, Mark and Scott Lewis, worked with Braune at the long-closed Six Burner in the space now occupied by Heritage. "Mike will be a breath of fresh air," Gregory says, "and it'll be interesting to see how we change and how he changes."
Closed: Pane y Vino, the Italian restaurant owned by Joseph Lo Presti, in the former Julian's space. First reported by Richmond.com, it was confirmed that a Mexican restaurant under new ownership is planned for the spot called Lalo's Cocina Bar & Grill.
Putting up: Cookbook author and Washington Post columnist Cathy Barrow comes to Southern Season on Friday, Nov. 7, from 4-6 p.m. Her book, "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preservation," taps directly into the local food movement and takes preserving from a summertime-only task to a year-round pursuit.
Happy birthday: The Cask Café & Market on South Robinson Street is celebrating its first birthday through Nov. 9, with special kegs tapped each day, a bicycle pub crawl Nov. 5 and a Lickinghole Creek mini tap takeover Nov. 6.
New wine: Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant is coming to Short Pump Town Center. With locations in seven states, the restaurant chain carries its own line of wines exclusively and pairs each dish on the menu with a specific varietal or blend. An opening date of Dec. 8 is planned.